The Seahawks appear to be set at the free safety position with Earl Thomas locked up for the next few years, but the strong safety spot is still up for grabs. Who lands the starting job is anyone's guess; free agent Lawyer Milloy could come back for an encore year, second year player Kam Chancellor has a shot, and rookie Mark LeGree will compete there as well. Jordan Babineaux is the darkhorse candidate to play there as well.
We've talked about the safety positions in this defense a lot during the offseason and we've pointed out that the two (strong and free) safety spots are fairly interchangeable and versatile. Both players have to be strong against the run, instinctive, and rangy enough to cover the deep middle of the field.
Though the depth is promising at that spot for the Seahawks, a sure-fire starter is not currently on the roster. Milloy and Jordan Babineaux are likely candidates to re-sign, there are free agents that could be attractive once the lockout is lifted, and there are, of course, trade candidates out there as well. Let's take a look...
On the Roster:
James Brindley (?)
Brandon Browner (?)
Josh Pinkard (?)
I place question marks next to Brindley, Browner, and Pinkard because they are all 'tweener' style players that could contribute in certain packages as safeties or cornerbacks, and could best be described as 'defensive backs'. Regardless, they're probably not going to be starting over Chancellor or LeGree.
Free Agents of Note:
UDFAs of Note:
Jeron Johnson, Boise State
DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson
Duenta Williams, North Carolina
Brian Lainhart, Kent State
Will Hill, Florida
Joe Lefeged, Rutgers
The biggest question here is whether the Hawks front office and coaching staff believe that Kam Chancellor or Mark LeGree are ready to step into a starting role. More accurately, are they willing to bet that Chancellor and/or LeGree are ready? If not, then they will need to make a free agent signing or two or bring in a player through a trade that can start in Week 1.
The good news is that they have cap space and a talented pool of safeties to choose from. Eric Weddle is arguably one of the best safeties in the NFL and may be on the outs in San Diego. He's a free safety though, and may be loath to sign on a team with a franchise free safety already in place. Because the two positions in Carroll's defense are fairly interchangeable though, it's not impossible that he'd be interested.
Quintin Mikell is another very good veteran safety and is probably not going to return to the Eagles. He'd be the kind of guy you can pencil in to start in Week 1. Danieal Manning is high on my list of potential targets as well. He's good in the deep middle, has good instincts and ball skills, and doesn't let anything get over his head - something Carroll preaches from that position.
Past those guys, Dashon Goldson, and Michael Huff are options as well. Really, any of the FA safeties that I listed could be viable options and I wouldn't be disappointed if the Hawks went out and signed one. That's not to say that I don't have high hopes for both Chancellor and LeGree, because I do, but they're both young and unproven, and thus susceptible to mistakes and getting fooled by veteran QBs' trickery and savvy.
The UDFA group is a pretty strong one as well. DeAndre McDaniel, Will Hill, and Duenta Williams were all, mostly, expected to get drafted so they will likely be high on teams' lists. Jeron Johnson, Joe Lefeged, and Brian Lainhart are all guys that I think could fit in Seattle as well. I take John Schneider at his word when he said the Hawks had 20-22 'draftable players' on their board after the last pick was announced, and have no doubt UDFAs will form a key component of the training camp roster and the practice squad. One or two may even make the final cuts, we'll see.
John Schneider and Pete Carroll have said time and again that they're trying to get younger so I'm not convinced they'll bring LawDawg back for another year. Same goes for Babineaux. The Hawks may find a free agent or UDFA with potential and use their roster or practice squad spot on that guy instead. They may feel that Chancellor and LeGree can carry the load. If they want to get continue the trend of getting younger and part ways with Babineaux and Milloy, they could sign a guy like Dashon Goldson or Danieal Manning and avoid throwing their youngsters into the fire.
In rookie free agency, I'd take a look at DeAndre McDaniel, Duenta Williams, and Brian Lainhart.
What do you guys/gals think?
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